Tue, Sep 28, 2004
Article: Pilots Question Testing Of Combat Capabilities
The V-22 may have risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of two
fatal crashes four years ago, but can it do the job it was built to
do? That question, posed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, comes
after the Pentagon admitted the Osprey wasn't tested in the "most
severe maneuvers." The reason: executives at Bell's plant in
Arlington (TX) and Boeing's helicopter facility in Pennsylvania
feared such maneuvers would damage the aircraft.
Does that mean the V-22 might be vulnerable? Does the fact that
some violent maneuvers, such as those necessary in evading ground
fire, were deleted from the evaluation course mean there are
undisclosed flight problems with the aircraft?
"The tactical implications of this limitation have been
carefully considered and will continue to be reviewed," said the
Pentagon's chief weapons tester, Tom Christie, in an exclusive
interview with the Fort Worth paper.
Some veteran helicopter warriors don't like it. "The V-22 won't
do the mission it was designed to do," said Bill Lawrence, a former
helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He once oversaw the V-22 test program,
but retired in 1989, before testing began, according to the
Star-Telegram. "For Christie's office to come right out and say
that they didn't do the testing simply means they absolutely know
the V-22 cannot operate where the average Marine combat pilot is
going to have to take it in order to survive."
But Boeing's chief V-22 test pilot, Tom MacDonald, disagrees.
"We don't feel there are going to be any limitations on maneuvering
this airplane reasonably," he told the Star-Telegram. "Everything
you fly has some limits."
Quoting a source close to the testing regime, the Star-Telegram
reported pilots specifically skipped a series of violent defensive
maneuvers after they were warned by engineers the tests might cause
severe rotor damage. In fact, tough but routine tests actually did
damage the aircraft.
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